Intel CEO Brian Krzanich made the most of his first appearance as International CES‘ lead keynote speaker — the gee-whiz presentation. Saying that we’re entering “a new era of computing,” he introduced several intriguing devices that he promised will all be available this year. He also brought up DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg to talk up the value of enhanced computing power for moviemaking. But most significantly, he announced that Intel’s new processors will no longer include minerals from mines in the Congo that have been at the center of fighting there that has resulted in millions of deaths, making it the deadliest war since World War II. “Every microprocessor will be conflict-free,” he says.
CES: Intel Chief Unveils Products Designed To Revolutionize Consumer Tech, And Vows To Keep Them “Conflict Free”
People who can’t live without a smartphone may be surprised to learn that they’ve been in the minority until this year, according to a new survey from the Pew Research Center‘s Internet & American Life Project. About 56% of the 1,127 adults questioned in May said that they own a computer-like, Web connected phone, up from 46% in a similar study last year. Pew says that another 35% in the new survey own a conventional mobile phone, and 9% don’t own a cell phone. As you’d expect, young adults are most likely to own smartphones: About 81% of 25-to-34 year olds have one; the number drops below half the population at age 55 and older. About 39% of those between 55 and 64 own one, sliding to 18% for those 65 and older. When it comes to smartphone operating systems, Google and Apple successfully held off threats from Blackberry and Microsoft: Among all cell phone owners 28% have a smartphone powered by Android (up from 20% last year) while 25% have an iPhone (up from 19%). Another 4% use Blackberry (down from 6%) and 1% are on Windows (down from 2%). But researchers found distinct differences in preference by demo. For example, Android beats Apple among those 54 and younger while Apple wins among college grads and in homes with incomes above $75,000 a year.
Dell shares barely budged on today’s announcement — they’re up 0.9% to $13.39 at mid-day — but have jumped 23% since January 14 when word of the planned deal leaked. Dell founder and CEO Michael Dell, who owns about 14% of the shares, and investment firm Silver Lake say that they’ll pay stockholders $13.65 in cash for each share. The financing includes a $2B loan from Microsoft. Dell’s board has a 45-day go-shop period to see if it can find a better deal. The Special Committee handling the review hired Evercore Partners to help. A rival bidder would have to pay a $180M termination fee if it beats Michael Dell’s offer within the go-shop period. After that, the termination fee rises to $450M. That “provides a real opportunity to determine if there are alternatives superior to the present offer,” the company’s lead director Alex Mandl says. But Dell says he’s confident his team “can deliver immediate value to stockholders” adding that he’s “committed to this journey and I have put a substantial amount of my own capital at risk.” If he prevails, he would remain CEO, and Dell would keep its headquarters in Round Rock, Texas. The company has suffered from its inability to keep up with consumers’ demand for smart devices including smartphones and tablets. Silver Lake Managing partner Egon Durban says that the group will “invest in long-term growth initiatives and accelerate the company’s transformation strategy to become an integrated and diversified global IT solutions provider.”
The 2013 International CES was a lot like last year’s show: Manufacturers concentrated on updating existing technologies, adding more processing power and online connectivity wherever possible, instead of introducing brand new inventions. Still, there were a lot of eye-catching products for those who like to own the hottest gadgets, and have money to burn. Here are a few of the stand-outs. But remember: Consumer electronics makers are notorious for showing off products at CES that never make it to retail shelves, or take far longer to do so than companies envision:
Lenovo’s IdeaCentre Horizon Table PC: Want to liven up family game night? Lenovo’s marketing this Windows 8 device with a 27-inch, HD display as a multimode “table PC.” It lays horizontally so that multiple users can play knock hockey, Monopoly, or video games. It comes with e-dice and four joysticks. First models are expected to be available this quarter for about $1,600.
Harmon Kardon BDS-577: Here’s a Blu-ray disc player that’s also designed to serve as an all-in-one centerpiece for a home entertainment system that accommodates everything from the highest resolution TV sets to comparatively lowly MP3 files on a smartphone. It handles 3D videos. But it also boasts great sound with 5.1-channel digital high fidelity amplifiers, decoding for Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD surround-sound, AirPlay music streaming, wireless transmissions to home theater speakers. In addition it has Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and support for YouTube.
The annual event winding down in Las Vegas probably won’t, but it should. Electronics manufacturers filled 1.9M square feet with products including many that could lead Big Media off what TiVo CEO Tom Rogers playfully refers to as the “digital cliff.” Instead of developing strategies to deal with the challenges, most companies “kick the can down the road,” he tells me.
He makes a compelling case. For example, several products likely will lead advertisers to wonder how long they should continue to pay big bucks for TV air time. It isn’t just that viewers can automatically zap a message with a device like Dish Network‘s Hopper with Sling DVR. (Or TiVo, for that matter.) People can simply ignore ads by shifting their attention to a smartphone or tablet computer. Cheap and powerful tablets were ubiquitous at this year’s show — sales will be huge this year — and Nielsen says that 41% of owners use them daily while they watch TV.
That’s good news for makers of multi-function devices led by computers, smartphones, tablets, and HDTVs — but potentially worrisome for makers of, say, Blu-ray players — consulting firm Accenture says this morning based on its latest annual Global Consumer Electronics Products and Services Usage Report. The study, released in conjunction with the International CES confab getting underway in Las Vegas, is based on a September 2012 survey of 11,000 consumers in 11 countries. It found sharp increases in plans to buy the four leading multi-function devices while buyer enthusiasm cooled slightly for disc players, and was unchanged for digital photo and video cameras, and game consoles. “This development amounts to a call to action for electronics manufacturers,” says Mattias Lewren, managing director for Accenture’s Electronics and High-Tech industry group. “They need to focus squarely on innovative devices with multiple applications, from browsing to media consumption to communications in various settings. Consumers want ‘do-it-all’ capabilities in various sizes and user experiences that fit their different lifestyle needs.” But people don’t appear to be especially loyal to operating systems that tie devices together. About two-thirds of the people surveyed said that they would buy mobile or computing devices that use different systems; they’re more interested in whether a device is innovative or easy to use. “The platforms that offer a more intuitive user experience, and diverse and sticky applications with compatibility across devices, will be key to creating consumer loyalty in this four-horse race,” Lewren says.
Shares are down in pre-market trading as investors sort through the consumer electronics giant’s latest earnings, and an ambitious plan to focus on mobile phone sales as it cuts total retail space. Best Buy says it will close 50 of its big box stores in the U.S. in the fiscal year that ends in February and remodel others to emphasise phone, video, and broadband services. Meanwhile, the chain will open 100 smaller Best Buy Mobile stores; it expects to have as many as 800 in 2016, up from 305 today. The chain also vows to “significantly improve the customer experience”: By the holiday season it will increase employee training and change compensation to offer “financial incentives for delivering on customer service and business goals.” All told, Best Buy expects to reduce its costs by $250M this year, and $800M by 2015. ”We intend to invest some of these cost savings into offering new and improved customer experiences and competitive prices — which will help drive revenue,” CEO Brian Dunn says. “And, over time, we expect some of the savings will fall to the bottom line.”
This was a year of incremental change at the 2012 International CES. The most prominent products didn’t wow people with their novelty; they’re mostly bigger, better and Web-connected versions of familiar technologies. But consumers who love hot new gadgets, and have money to burn, will still be intrigued by some of the devices that manufacturers displayed. Here are a few of the stand-outs to watch for this year — at least until Apple announces some of its own new products. But remember: Consumer electronics makers are notorious for showing off products at CES that never actually make it to retail shelves, or take far longer to do so than companies envision: